Pulmonary osteoclast-like cells in silica induced pulmonary fibrosis

Yoshihiro Hasegawa#**, Jennifer M. Franks#, Yusuke Tanaka, Yasuaki Uehara, David F. Read, Claire Williams, Sanjay Srivatsan, Lori B. Pitstick, Nikolaos M. Nikolaidis, Ciara M. Shaver, Huixing Wu, Jason C. Gardner, Andrew R. Osterburg, Jane J. Yu, Elizabeth J. Kopras, Steven L. Teitelbaum, Kathryn A. Wikenheiser-Brokamp, Cole Trapnell**, Francis X. McCormack**
bioRxiv (2023)


The pathophysiology of silicosis is poorly understood, limiting development of therapies for those who have been exposed to the respirable particle. We explored the mechanisms of silica-induced pulmonary fibrosis in a mouse model using multiple modalities including wholelung single-nucleus RNA sequencing. These analyses revealed that in addition to pulmonary inflammation and fibrosis, intratracheal silica challenge induced osteoclast-like differentiation of alveolar macrophages and recruited monocytes, driven by induction of the osteoclastogenic cytokine, receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand (RANKL) in pulmonary lymphocytes and alveolar type II cells. Furthermore, anti-RANKL monoclonal antibody treatment suppressed silica-induced osteoclast-like differentiation in the lung and attenuated silica-induced pulmonary fibrosis. We conclude that silica induces osteoclast-like differentiation of distinct recruited and tissue resident monocyte populations, leading to progressive lung injury, likely due to sustained elaboration of bone resorbing proteases and hydrochloric acid. Interrupting osteoclast-like differentiation may therefore constitute a promising avenue for moderating lung damage in silicosis.

One Sentence Summary: Silica induces the alveolar epithelium to reprogram recruited and resident pulmonary myeloid cells to become osteoclasts that contribute to pulmonary fibrosis.

# equal contribution ** corresponding authors